- See updated Division-winner odds for all 16 AFC teams following a wild free agency period
- The Patriots (-110) are still favored in the AFC East despite Tom Brady’s departure and the arrival of Stefon Diggs in Buffalo (+175)
- Cam Newton would give the Chargers (+600) a chance in the AFC West
Like an oasis in the desert, NFL free agency saved withering sports fans from the drudgery of self isolation with a wellspring of trades and signings across the league.
The Buccaneers and Cardinals — two of our top NFC divisional bets heading into free agency — made the biggest splashes of the week, acquiring Tom Brady and DeAndre Hopkins, respectively.
With those two stars out of the AFC and almost all of the top free agents off the board, let’s examine the conference’s best divisional bets.
ODDS TO WIN AFC EAST
|New England Patriots||-110|
|New York Jets||+650|
STANDING PAT WITH NEW ENGLAND (-110)
The Bills (+175) made the biggest acquisition in the division, trading a bounty of picks to the Vikings for the always-open, always-unhappy Stefon Diggs. But while Diggs is one of the league’s preeminent route runners and top deep threats, putting him in a Josh Allen-led offense is like handing a garbage truck driver the keys to a Ferrari.
Buffalo is actually the division favorite on some sites, but their athletic, scattershot quarterback is sending out some serious Mitch Trubisky vibes entering his third season.
Can you digg it? pic.twitter.com/7ydGuGX4f7
— NFL (@NFL) March 17, 2020
At this juncture, we would rather roll with the franchise that has won 11 straight AFC East championships. New England (-110) is intimating that they’ll move forward with 2019 fourth-round pick Jarrett Stidham behind center, but if the Pats were to bring in Cam Newton on the cheap, it wouldn’t take long for Bill Belichick to be hailed as a genius with unnamed executives leaving, “How did we let this happen?” quotes in the press.
ODDS TO WIN AFC NORTH
ROLLING WITH THE RAVENS (-200)
A free-agency miracle of sorts occurred on Tuesday when the Bengals (+2500) actually decided to spend some money, bringing in defensive tackle D.J. Reader and cornerback Trae Waynes to bolster their defense. The Browns (+450) were also active, signing tight end Austin Hooper and right tackle Jack Conklin to big-money deals.
But even with the Ohio teams’ collective largesse, the AFC North – as always – will come down to the Steelers (+350) and Ravens (-200). While Pittsburgh basically took a knee on free agency, Baltimore looks intent on maximizing Lamar Jackson’s rookie-contract window.
Jags are trading DL Calais Campbell to the Ravens once the league year begins, per @RapSheet and @TomPelissero pic.twitter.com/rBKxmgIhTC
— B/R Gridiron (@brgridiron) March 15, 2020
After giving up almost nothing to acquire five-time Pro Bowl defensive end Calais Campbell from the Jaguars, GM Eric DeCosta somehow got a second-round pick from Atlanta for third-string tight end Hayden Hurst. He also added veteran Michael Brockers on the defensive line and put the franchise tag on linebacker Matthew Judon.
ODDS TO WIN AFC SOUTH
PULL THE TRIGGER ON THE TEXANS (+225)
Bill O’Brien handled free agency about as well as President Trump navigated this whole coronavirus situation. After reportedly comparing his No. 1 receiver to a known murderer, the Texans coach/GM used his absolute power to ship Hopkins to Arizona for a broken-down David Johnson and a relatively small pick upgrade (4th for a 2nd).
That asinine asset bungling, combined with the Colts’ acquisitions of 38-year-old Phillip Rivers and star defensive lineman DeForest Buckner, was enough for oddsmakers to install Indianapolis (+150) as the new favorite.
DeAndre Hopkins said Bill O’Brien compared him to Aaron Hernandez and criticized Hopkins for having the mothers of his children around too much, per Michael Irvin on @GetUpESPN pic.twitter.com/2pyNrj3FJ3
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 18, 2020
Tennessee (+200) is also in the mix after re-signing Ryan Tannehill (for big money) and tagging Derrick Henry (for much less), but it’s safe to write off the tanking Jaguars (+1400).
While BOB has shaken my confidence to the core with his latest misguided maneuver, he has led Houston (+225) to four division titles in the past five seasons and still has the AFC South’s best quarterback by far in Deshaun Watson.
ODDS TO WIN AFC WEST
|Kansas City Chiefs||-300|
|Los Angeles Chargers||+600|
|Las Vegas Raiders||+800|
WORTH CONSIDERING THE CHARGERS (+600)
John Elway’s bungling of the Broncos’ quarterback position has become something of a running joke since Peyton Manning retired, with the likes of Brock Osweiler, Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch, Case Keenum and Joe Flacco all mortifying in Mile High.
This year’s free-agent class brought no shortage of veteran options (Brady, Rivers, Newton, etc.), but alas, Elway is all-in on Drew Lock after a solid rookie showing. Does anyone else get the feeling the horse-toothed Hall-of-Famer is being set up to fail yet again?
Cam Newton makes a ton of sense to the Chargers.
Anthony Lynn looking for mobile QB moving forward.
Tyrod Taylor safety net if Cam isn’t healthy.
Cam will sell tickets, as entertaining as they come
Most importantly? Man, he looks good in the Bolts uniform. pic.twitter.com/dIWzLgrlNo
— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) March 17, 2020
Denver (+800) and Oakland (+800) are obvious long shots with Kansas City (-300) set to dominate the division (and probably the entire NFL) for years to come, but the Chargers (+600) are worth a tad more consideration if you think they might be bluffing about moving forward with Tyrod Taylor.
Los Angeles’ secondary is absolutely loaded after inking cornerback Chris Harris, and the team improved on both sides of the line after bringing in DT Linval Joseph and OT Bryan Bulaga.
A draft-day trade up for Tua Tagovailoa seems in the cards for a Chargers team that’s moving into a new L.A. stadium with little-to-no fan support.
A healthy Cam Newton would also give the Bolts a fighting chance against the Chiefs, but the eventual destination for the 2015 NFL MVP is among one of the league’s most intriguing subplots as we move out of free-agency season towards the draft.